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Church for the Broken and Weary

In a season of profound depression, strangers offered comfort and support.

Rachel Pieh Jones
Rachel Pieh Jones
Rachel Pieh Jones is author of Stronger than Death. She has written for the New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, Huffington Post, Runners World, and Christianity Today. In 2003 she moved to Somaliland, and since 2004 she has lived in neighboring Djibouti, where she and her husband run a school. Subscribe to her Substack newsletter, Do Good Better.

Sometimes church feels more like the kingdom of pretenders than the kingdom of God. When someone I loved tumbled into depression, I dropped my life and flew across borders to be there. The first Sunday we spent together, I asked if she wanted to go to church.

“No,” she said.

I felt relief. I didn’t want to go either, but I asked her why not.

“I don’t want to be with those people, pretending.”

Amen.

We slept in, went out for hamburgers, and listened to a podcast interview with Richard Rohr. I prayed for healing. It felt holy.

What is church?

It’s easy to go to church and keep your distance. Facing forward in the pews, you are free to engage with as little or as much of what is going on as you would like. If you have honest questions, doubts, or brokenness, you may not be encouraged to express them. If you choose to bare your soul, you do it silently, privately, to God.

In The Moonlight Sonata at the Mayo Clinic, Nora Gallagher writes, “I don’t think Jesus had in mind a place where you had to tolerate the empty predictability of a service and stand upright at the coffee hour if you had been diagnosed with lymphoma or sarcoidosis or lung cancer. He was, at the heart of his ministry, a healer.”

I understood that my loved one didn’t want to endure the empty predictability of a service. Even getting dressed was hard in those days.

What we both needed was the Healer. The Jesus who knelt in dirt, mixed it with saliva, and spread it on a blind man’s face. The Jesus who touched a woman who hadn’t stopped bleeding in over a decade. The Jesus who raised the dead son of a widow. The Jesus who was not afraid of dirt, stigma, or sorrow.

Continue reading at Plough Quarterly.